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Impact of Training Dementia Caregivers in Sensitivity to Nonverbal Emotion Signals

  • Carol Magai (a1), Carl I. Cohen (a2) and David Gomberg (a1)

Abstract

Ninety-one mid- to late-stage dementia patients residing in nursing homes, along with their staff caregivers, participated in a study designed to assess whether training caregivers in sensitivity to nonverbal communication could enhance mood and reduce symptoms in patients and improve psychological well-being in caregivers. Patients and staff at three nursing homes comprised three groups that were randomly assigned to either a non-verbal sensitivity group, a behavioral placebo group that received instruction in the cognitive and behavioral aspects of dementia, and a wait-list control. Training consisted of 10 one-hour sessions taught by a clinical psychologist using prepared materials. Patient measures, which were taken at baseline and at 4 three-week intervals, included patient symptomatology (depression, agitation, behavioral symptoms), as reported by the staff caregivers, and positive and negative facial expressions of emotion elicited during a face-to-face interview and coded by trained research staff. Results indicated that positive affect increased sharply during the first 6 weeks after intervention in the nonverbal group, with the placebo and wait-list controls showing no change. There was also a decline in negative affect across time for all groups. Effects with respect to patient symptomatology did not reach significance. Caregivers in both training groups showed a decline in symptomatology, whereas the wait-list control group did not.

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